TRThursday: Mind and Morals


Theodore Roosevelt is said to have read some 10,000 books in his lifetime. He had an amazing ability to speed-read and retain the information. It was not unusual for him to read a book or two in a day, in his spare moments paging through a book on botany and then in another moment on the war of 1812, cataloging the information on vastly different subjects at ease. When he would meet a new person he would “suck them dry” of information on their work background, the goings-on of their town, ancestry, and all sorts of particulars. In other words, his mind was incredibly sharp. However, he was also quite balanced, believing that knowledge and morality had to go hand in hand in order for a man to be the manliest he could be.

- #TRThursday articles give us some manly insight and wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt every Thursday. Sometimes a quote, sometimes a snippet of his life...always manly! Read other TRThursday articles here. -

Mind and Morals

Today’s #TRThursday focus comes from this excellent quote:

Theodore_Roosevelt01“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” – Theodore Roosevelt

What really stood out to me was that he didn’t simply say, “ Education and morals make a good society.”, rather, he said, if we only educate the mind we will create a menace to society. The question then becomes, “ Is that really true?” and “ If so, why?

Here are two reasons I could think of why Roosevelt would say this.

Smart People Become Powerful

This is quite simple: smarter people rise to the top of society, particularly in roles of authority. When something needs to be done, who do we look to? Smart people, right? We laud them with praise and put them in positions where they can be of the most service. Sometimes those positions grant them a tremendous amount of power. Sometimes they find ways to power on their own simply because they have outsmarted the average man. This leads to the second problem.

Intelligence Doesn’t Ask All the Right Questions

Intelligence alone only asks, “If it can be done” rather than also asking “If it should be done”. Take your pick on the many atrocities over the last century: forced sterilization, Nazis, Japan (WWII), infanticide, etc. If we raise a society without a moral compass, we are choosing to raise a society of powerful, selfish, self-reliant (not in the good way) people which has historically led to the most despicable acts of mankind.

Final Thoughts

As usual, TR is right. A man must be balanced both morally and mentally. However, I believe there is another aspect more important than mere morality: Christianity. Even a stout moralist, like the Greeks and Romans, can be led into all sorts of nasty things because their conscience is never pricked or they have been taught certain moral rules framed within the context of what is socially acceptable rather than actually good, pure, and noble.

Take the Japanese during WWII and prior. The Japanese are known for their strict code of honor. However, they committed some of the worst atrocities ever recorded by history. It is hard to imagine how a society built around “honor” could do such things, but it happened. If we trust only in our good sense of morality, we will find ourselves sliding away from the thoughtful, manful life we wish to have.

After all, trusting in morals alone is just trusting in our “knowledge” of right and wrong, and we are back to the original problem we wanted to avoid. Our role as men is far too important to go it alone.

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